Despite Citizen Uproar, IDEM Grants Air Permit For Sunman Barrel House

The permit gives MGPI of Indiana LLC permission to begin aging up to 320,000 whiskey barrels at a warehouse in Sunman.

(Sunman, Ind.) – Now, it seems nothing stands in the way of MGPI of Indiana, LLC storing hundreds of thousands of barrels full of whiskey in a warehouse in Sunman.

Whether the boundless fungus associated with barrel houses has an adverse effect on neighbors in and near town remains to be seen.

On April 10, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management Office of Air Quality granted MGPI of Indiana the new source construction and minor source operating permit it needed for the barrel house operation.

The permit is effective immediately. It does not expire until April 10, 2024.

A copy of the permit is available on IDEM's Virtual File Cabinet website here (PDF, 2.2 MB).

According to the company’s plans, up to 320,000 wooden barrels of spirits produced at MGPI’s distillery in Lawrenceburg and Greendale will be aged for years at the former Deufol factory the company purchased last year. Town officials have said the barrel house operation will employ fewer than a dozen people.

The 415,000-square-foot former stationary factory, located on Meridian Street-State Road 101 on the south side of town, is likely to be among the largest barrel houses in the world.

As whiskey ages inside the oak barrels, ethanol inside the barrels evaporates through the saturated wood. Known as the angel’s share of the whiskey, the evaporation is key to giving the liquor its desired taste.

Here’s where the controversy resides. The heightened amount of ethanol in the air feeds the growth of a fungus called Baudoinia compniacensis. It shows up as a hard-to-clean, black coating on almost anything near to the evaporated ethanol source.

Such fungal growth has been apparent for decades on homes, trees and vehicles near the distillery in Greendale and Lawrenceburg. It’s been the same story at barrel houses in bourbon distillery towns in Kentucky, brandy distilleries in France, and scotch distilleries in Scotland.

The air permit being issued seemed almost certain based on what IDEM officials told citizens at a February 28 public hearing at Milan High School. Doug Wagner, technical environmental specialist with IDEM's Office of Air Quality, said the agency cannot regulate airborne ethanol because it is classified as a fugitive emission.

Also, ethanol is not among the contaminants the agency is required to regulate, he said.

“Ethanol is not classified as a hazardous air pollutant. The EPA by statute or federal rule has set out 187 hazardous air pollutants by name and ethanol is not among them,” Wagner explained.

Citizens were invited to continue submitting their comments on the air permit through March 4.

More than 130 public comments were received. Each are included in the air permit just issued to MGPI.

A vast majority of the spoken comments and written letters specifically mentioned worries about the fungus, including impacts on citizens’ health, property values and crops.

“We are very concerned about what this will do to our home, cars, plant life, animals, water and mostly, our HEALTH! I see the results that this black fungus causes to the areas of Greendale and Lawrenceburg from this toxic fungus. How can you allow this to happen to another town???” one Sunman resident wrote to the agency.

Some citizens wrote about fears of the fire risks posed by millions of gallons of alcohol stored in one location. Others pleaded for IDEM to require MGPI to install equipment which would collect the evaporated ethanol before it leaves the warehouse.

As was promised by agency officials at the February 28 public hearing, IDEM wrote a response to each comment. It pointed toward various policies or answers to other commenters’ similar questions.

Citizens do have one Hail Mary pass available to stop the angel’s share and the unsightly fungus it causes. They can file a petition of review of IDEM’s decision to an administrative law judge within 18 calendar days of the mailing of the permit notice.

RELATED STORIES:

Thursday's Sunman Town Council Meeting At Sunman Elementary School

IDEM Meeting Doesn't Leave Much Doubt About Likelihood Of Sunman Whiskey Barrel House Permit

Ripley County Commissioners Drafting Ordinance To Combat Whiskey Fungus

Sunman Citizens Display Barrel House Opposition To Defensive Town Council

IDEM Grants Public Meeting On Sunman Whiskey Barrel House Operation

Citizens Want Public Hearing On Whiskey Barrel Storage In Sunman

Whiskey Barrels Will Fill Former Deufol Plant In Sunman

More from Local News


Events

  • Deaborn County Clearinghouse Hunger Awareness Event

    The Clearinghouse is a nonprofit hunger relief organization, leading the movement to end hunger throughout Dearborn and Ohio Indiana Counties. Since 1981 The clearinghouse has partnered with organizations across our community to distribute food to individuals and families in need. Through carefully crafted programs, The Clearinghouse aims to meet the immediate needs of our community while simultaneously working to find long term ways to reduce hunger.

    at Lawrenceburg Event Center
  • Southeastern Indiana Shrine Club Steak Dinner

    Featuring T-bone steaks, smoked pork chops, chicken, steak burger, Moores Hill potatoes, baked potato, vegetables, drop biscuits with apple butter, soup, salad, desert, tea or coffee. Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages extra cost. Carry out is available.

    at THE SHRINE CLUB
  • Moores Hill Alumni Dinner

    Graduates from Moores Hill High School will have an alumni dinner on Saturday, May 4. The school was open from 1918 through 1978 due to schools consolidating. We have a nice dinner catered by Savor the Flavor. Small meeting and reminisce and explore the old building.

    at Carnegie Hall

Aurora, Madison Men Arrested On Drug Charges

The arrest was made on April 21 following a traffic stop in Jefferson County.

AUDIO: Aurora Mayoral Primary Debates

Aurora mayoral candidates shared their ideas for addressing infrastructure and housing issues on Eagle Country 99.3 on Wednesday.

AUDIO: Lawrenceburg Mayoral Primary Debates

Listen to the candidates for mayor of Lawrenceburg appear on Eagle Country 99.3.

South Ripley's Cole, JCD's Simon Set Records, Earn ORVC Weekly Honors

Another week, another record for Megan Cole.

Local Sports Report - April 23

East Central softball's Natalie Schnell collected 5 RBI in a Trojans win Tuesday.

Alix DeDreu Becomes Thomas More's All-Time Wins, K's Leader

The former Rising Sun Lady Shiners star set two records during Monday's win against Anderson.

On Air

Happy Jack playing
Florida Georgia Line - Confession

Granger Smith Happens Like That 10:44
Mark Chesnutt I'll Think Of Something 10:40
Sugarland Settlin' 10:32
Lee Brice Rumor 10:28